For the first time in two decades universities in New Zealand will receive no real increase in government funding, while $2.8 billion is being spent on the failed policy to lift participation in tertiary education, National’s Tertiary Education Spokesperson Paula Bennett says.

“The Government’s $2.8 billion fees-free bribe has proven to be the biggest waste of money in recent history, with Treasury’s Budget documents revealing that the number of students in tertiary education is forecast to decline by almost 1000 in 2018/19.

“At the same time, the Government is doing nothing about investing in the quality of our universities – not even increasing funding to at least keep up with inflation.

“The sector has estimated that with no increase in government funding, for tuition and research it will cost some universities around $5 million-$10 million next year which is equivalent to 50-100 jobs. For the university sector itself, it could cost between $18 million and $36 million.

“There’s no point getting more students into tertiary education if the institutions aren’t even funded enough to stay afloat, let alone to provide quality education in keeping with international standards.

“We cannot compromise the quality of education for the volume of enrolments.

“In this case, the Government is compromising quality but getting fewer students in tertiary education so it’s a lose-lose situation.

“That’s because it didn’t bother to do any cost-benefit analysis of the fees-free policy – if it had, it would have realised how wasteful the $2.8 billion spend would be and perhaps redirected the funding into ensuring the quality of education.

“We can be sure that if we don’t maintain the quality of our tertiary education institutions, the best and brightest students will just take their enrolments overseas.”

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